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    » 06/15/2012, 00.00

    CHINA

    Hunan authorities reopen Li Wangyang's case: it was not suicide



    A provincial spokesman confirms that domestic and international public opinion "convinced" the authorities to ask for the help of a team of experts to shed light on the death of the dissident who was found hanging under police guard. However, the body was cremated right after the death. Dissident Hu Jia, who was arrested for making public the affair, was released soon after.

    Beijing (AsiaNews) - Hunan provincial authorities have launched a new probe into the suspicious death on 4 June of Li Wangyang, a dissident who played a leading role in the Tiananmen protest. He was found hanging in hospital whilst under police guard. Initially, local officials said he had committed suicide, but a wave of protests, especially in Hong Kong, and pressure from public opinion "convinced" the authorities to reopen the case.

    "Apart from entrusting authoritative forensic experts from outside the province to conduct an autopsy, [we] have launched a further probe by a team of experienced criminal investigation experts," a spokesman for the Hunan provincial public security bureau said yesterday.

    The announcement shows that the authorities no longer considered Li's death a suicide or an accident.

    The spokesman admitted the probe was largely prompted by the persistent attention and concern over Li's death by overseas media and the public.

    Li was a labour activist in the 1980s. He spent 13 years in prison as a "counterrevolutionary" because he had led a Workers Autonomous Federation in Shaoyang during the wave of demonstrations that swept the country in 1989.

    After he was released in 2000 on medical ground, he was sentenced to an additional ten years for "subversion".

    His body was found hanging on 6 June in a hospital room under police guard place there because of the anniversary of the 4 June 1989 massacre.

    His friends and other dissidents reacted to the news of his death by demanding a new inquiry into his death, even though they doubt much can come of it.

    In fact, the authorities cremated the body on 9 June, a procedure they use when they want to eliminate all evidence about the violence inflicted on prisoners and human rights activists.

    A fellow dissident, Hu Jia, was also arrested for speaking to the foreign press about Li's alleged suicide.

    Hu was held overnight by police. "The ostensible reason was because I gave interviews to foreign media, particularly a face-to-face interview," he said. However, "I am totally sure that they just want to limit my personal freedom."

    Hu, who was released last year after serving a three-and-a-half jail term for "subversion" is known as a go-between Chinese dissidents and foreign media.

    He also played a crucial role in the case of Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer who was at the centre of a diplomatic tug-of-war between Beijing and Washington. In fact, he helped secure Chen's departure from China because of constant violation of his human rights.

    Now that Chen is New York, Hu said he would like to visit his mother. "Since Guangcheng left, his elderly mother has been on her own at home, with just the little dog and a few chickens for company," Hu explained. "I want the old lady to see her son's image."

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    See also

    03/06/2011 CHINA
    To commemorate the 4 June massacre, China arrests other dissidents
    Ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, many activists and democrats have been put under house arrest or have disappeared. Since February, Beijing has arrested hundreds of dissidents, fearing Jasmine Revolution-style protests.

    21/06/2008 JAPAN
    More than 30,000 suicides in Japan in 2007
    Recently released police figures show that last year 33,093 people committed suicide in Japan. It was the tenth consecutive year in which the suicide rate topped the 30,000 mark. Increasingly people use pesticides to poison themselves.

    08/06/2012 CHINA
    Chinese dissidents launch petition to find the truth about Li Wangyang's "suicide"
    A labour activist since the early 1980s, Li was found hanging on Wednesday. He spent 23 years in prison for his involvement with the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement and was under police watch when he died.

    07/06/2012 CHINA
    China, one of the Tiananmen Square leaders hanged under surveillance
    Family and friends of Li Wangyang, trade unionist and leader of 1989 democracy protests, point to the police who instead speak of "suicide". The man has spent 21 years in prison, and last month he said: "I will never set aside my desire for democracy and the rule of law in China." In prison he had been systematically tortured by the police.

    23/02/2006 CHINA
    Man who defaced Mao's portrait freed after 17 years
    The man, a young journalist when he was arrested in 1989, was released yesterday. He was charged and jailed with two friends. At least 70 other people are still in prison from the 1989 protests.



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